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The Skanner News
Published: 01 June 2020

(Salem, OR) — Gov. Kate Brown has announced a $30 million investment to secure Oregon's food supply chain and protect essential agricultural workers.

The Governor's office worked with state agencies, farmers, and farmworker advocates to send rapid support and resources to Oregon's agricultural producers to meet harvest demands and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Brown said the funding will help stem the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

"Oregon’s agricultural workers are on the frontlines during this COVID-19 crisis, working to provide food for Oregon families,” she said.

“This investment will bring essential resources to agricultural producers and farmworkers, providing critical resources to keep workers safe and mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks while protecting the food supply chain."

The funds will help ensure continuing harvests during the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal to reduce the potential for illness and death associated with COVID-19 among farmworkers, their families, employers, and other residents in rural and urban communities.

The funding will include: 

  • Distribution of 1 million face masks and 5,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to the agricultural and farmworker communities announced earlier this week.
  • $14 million for mitigation of COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • A quarantine fund for recovering farmworkers.
  • Deployment of personal protective equipment.
  • Community-based outreach and prevention grants to community based organizations serving migrant seasonal farmworkers to conduct field education, outreach and engagement activities.
  • $10 million for agriculture workforce housing.
  • An assistance program for hotel and alternative housing reimbursements so affected workers can maintain physical distance when required because of exposure to COVID-19. Applications will be available starting June 10, 2020, with eligible reimbursement back to May 11, 2020, the effective date of the OR-OSHA temporary rule requiring distancing.
  • $5 million for additional COVID-19 field sanitation with reimbursement for hand-washing stations and portable restrooms. Applications will be available starting June 10, 2020, with eligible reimbursement back to June 1, 2020, the effective date of the OR-OSHA temporary rule.
  • $1 million to support additional physical distancing requirements for employer-provided transportation in response to OR-OSHA temporary rules. Applications will be available starting June 10, 2020, with eligible reimbursement back to June 1, 2020, the effective date of the OR-OSHA temporary rule.

In addition to this $30 million investment, Oregon Housing and Community Services will also direct up to $3.5 million of allocated funding for safe shelter alternatives, which can include hotel and motel vouchers for vulnerable populations including people experiencing homelessness and farmworkers, whose living situations and underlying health conditions make them particularly susceptible to severe consequences from exposure to COVID-19.

OHCS is working in partnership with the Oregon Human Development Corporation to ensure these funds meet the needs of agricultural workers and their families, and vulnerable populations.

“We are concerned about the health and welfare of our agricultural and farmworker communities, their families, and the security of our food supply,” said Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Alexis Taylor.

“Together growers, workers, and public partners all play important roles in keeping our farms and ranches safe.

"As Oregon’s 2020 harvest season begins we are proud to be a part of the effort to protect an industry that supports nearly 720,000 jobs and more than $34 billion in wages.

"That is why it is critical our agricultural industry and its diverse community of workers have the resources they need to stay healthy."

Mike Doke, executive director of Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers said:

"By addressing agricultural workforce housing, COVID-19 sanitation and COVID-19 mitigation outbreaks in this package, Oregon is helping farmers keep workers safe and supporting the state’s most important economic sector."

Dave Dillion, executive director of Oregon Farm Bureau said:

"Times were tough in agriculture before the pandemic, and they are much tougher now.

"This assistance package is a very important step toward helping Oregon's farm and ranch families meet the new standards OR-OSHA has put in place for this growing season."

Reyna Lopez, Executive Director of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN) said:

"Our Governor is doing right by farmworkers who are the backbone of Oregon's essential food supply chain.

"Ensuring farmworkers have access to the quarantine fund and PPE sends a strong message to essential workers across the state: You are essential, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

"In addition, housing funds will provide migrant farmworkers with alternatives as they arrive to ensure crops are not left unpicked."

Visit the Food Security and Farmworker Safety program website for more details and to subscribe for updates. 

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